The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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With big dads, Karan shows he KAN(K)
- ‘After having white characters in my earlier films, I have tinted them with grey now’
Karan Johar

Calcutta, Aug. 13: The world’s largest film industry, that gives Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham to billions of people worldwide and makes them go Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, is today in the hands of a few good — or rather big — men. And when four of the power high five come together, you can surely sing Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna to the box office.

A few days into his first release in five years, Karan Johar is on a high. KANK, his take on love and marriage that marks a deliberate and drastic departure from his soppy K-series, has been drawing crowds by the thousands not only in the country but is also topping charts in the UK, US and Australia. And why not'

KJo directs it, Shah Rukh Khan leads it, Amitabh Bachchan stars in it and Yash Chopra distributes it. Barring an Aamir Khan, they are the most influential men in Bollywood on whom rides more than 70 per cent of the industry money in any given year, according to trade analysts. Throw in heroine number one Rani Mukherjee and crown prince Abhishek Bachchan, and KANK scores even before it hits the screens.

While he argues that “stars generate only initial excitement” and “content is the king”, Karan is not apologetic about his star connections.

Shah Rukh Khan

“I am surrounded by these lovely people whom I love and respect. Shah Rukh is indispensable to my film; I have great associations with the Bachchans; Yash Chopra is like a father figure to me,” Karan told The Telegraph hours after the film’s first day, first show.

If Chopra is indeed a father figure, this is Karan’s coming-of-age film. For KANK does what Silsila couldn’t 25 summers ago — in July 1981 — by uniting Shah Rukh and Rani at an American rail station, something that the tulip gardens of Holland could not do for Amitabh and Rekha.

“It is not a happy ending, the two are just sharing their suffering and guilt, and spending their incomplete lives together,” Karan says.

So has the prince of popcorn populism changed his stripes' “More than me changing,” he stresses, “I think it is the reflection of the environment around us.”

Booed by critics for the bubble-gum romance and family fixation in his first two blockbusters, Karan is worried that his maturity — “Kuch Kuch… was made by a boy, KANK by a man” — may turn out to be a “shock” for his audiences. “I hope they accept it as a pleasant surprise,” he says, sounding nervous. “After having white characters in my earlier films, I have tinted them with grey in KANK.”

Amitabh Bachchan

And that’s what is most commendable about Karan’s new film. With more than Rs 50 crore at his disposal, he could have stuck to the safe and narrow (read: another roaring Rahul-Anjali romance) but instead he twists not just the tale but also Shah Rukh’s character from lover boy to a horrid husband. If his message in K3G was “it’s all about loving your parents”, KANK “warns people that marriage cannot be an identity”.

For the single man of 34, his movies are a reflection of life and relationships around him. “I am a silent observer of human nature,” he says.

The initial response to KANK is expectedly overwhelming — what with such a star cast, 1,000 prints and a six-day first weekend. Says Mumbai-based trade analyst Indu Mirani: “Karan has nothing to worry about. The film has opened huge everywhere and with the weekend extending till Janmashtami, it will make lots and lots of money.”

Adds trade analyst Taran Adarsh: “There’s no major opposition to KANK in the weeks to come and the film should have a free run at the box office.”

Yash Chopra

Three back-to-back blockbusters, arguably the best chat show host around, the most familiar face on an awards podium, a sought-after ramp walker… Karan is as much king as any Khan.

“I am just a people’s person and everyone gets to see so much of me, that they feel I am a celebrity. But honestly, I feel happy when I am recognised in public,” Karan says.

Spoken like a true star. Hail, Bollywood’s first star director.

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